Flash memory summit 2015 thanks us for the memories

FMS15The tenth annual Flash Memory Summit 2015 opens tomorrow at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. This year’s gathering promises to not only overflow on attendance (up 33% from last year) but also on discovery of Intel/Micron’s recent announcement of 3D XPoint non-volatile memory.

Micron will be holding a special, invitation only, session on the terrace at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara on Wednesday the 12th from 4:00 – 6:00 PM. From what we’ve been able to uncover it appears that the next two weeks are going to be some of the most intense weeks in the company’s history. On Friday the 14th Micron will be convening their Summer Analyst Conference at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel beginning at the crisp hour of 8:00 AM. The company had to squeeze in their Summer Analyst Conference before more breaking news fulminating from Intel’s Developer Forum 2015 being held the following week at San Francisco’s Moscone Center West. Intel/Micron plan to further expose the world to a number of new ground breaking developments resulting from the two companies continued technology partnership – Intel Micron Flash Technology (IMFT).

There’s also this persistent rumor that an important tech company has rented the Buena Vista Center for the Performing Arts for a major announcement. Who it is and what they plan to announce has become the sport of speculators. Some are leaning toward Apple while others are laying odds on Microsoft. Will this rumor live up to anything valid? Stay tuned.

3D XPoint (3D Crosspoint Memory)

Intel/Micron’s announcement two weeks ago caused a major stir even though the event has been on Micron’s technology roadmap for the last several years. Both Samsung and SK Hynix were taken aback when they learned that the product will be in production in the fourth quarter of this year. They didn’t expect production of Storage Class Memory (SCM) also known as Persistent Memory (especially if you work the Intel side of the equation) to begin until 2017 at the earliest.

3D XPoint memory is 1,000 times faster, has 1,000 times more endurance than NAND and is 10 times denser than DRAM. It is the first new class of non-volatile memory to enter the market in 25 years. This is upsetting a goodly amount of status quo.

3D XPoint technology, though clearly indicated on Micron’s corporate roadmap, remained a well-kept secret by Intel/Micron. For those that follow such things this was illustrated by the fact that neither company participated in any of the usual technology forums reporting on the subject. Adding to the mystery, researchers associated with IMEC, the foremost semiconductor research center in Europe suddenly shifted investigations over to ReRAM and RRAM beginning in February of this Year. Collectively these events are seen as signatory markers indicating an undisclosed agreement among researchers that the technology path has now become perfectly clear.

Intel/Micron also stated that they have no plan to license the technology. The two companies will build more factories if the demand merits it. The news that they weren’t planning to play the commodity game with their new technology produced some pretty interesting reactions. The Korean producers, who have been literally caught with their pants down, are in a mad scramble to recover. This is not to say a company like Samsung doesn’t have the ability to cover this, it’s just that Intel/Micron may have just gotten lucky – they repeated that the technology concerns a “bulk change of the material” which has the entire research community outside of Intel/Micron spiked in conversation over it. One interesting tidbit is that Micron has been filing patent wrappers referring to the memory element as a “Programmable Conductive RAM”, which confused many as phase-change which it isn’t.

Confused yet? Don’t worry – everybody else is too.

Intel, on their 3D Xpoint page makes the following statements;

“This new class of non-volatile memory is a revolutionary technology that allows for quick access to enormous data sets and enables entirely new applications.”

And

 “For example, retailers may use 3D XPoint technology to more quickly identify fraud detection patterns in financial transactions; healthcare researchers could process and analyze larger data sets in real time, accelerating complex tasks such as genetic analysis and disease tracking”.

Both indicate the new memory is directed toward In-Memory Database applications expanding the memory capacity of Xeon class servers to ~64 Terabytes of accessible memory shared between DDR4 DRAM and 3D XPoint. According to one source “these statements make it clear that Intel’s intentions are solving the “Big Data” problem in the “In-Memory Database server segment with the new technology. All that’s left is for the hardware to roll out along with glowing endorsements from the usual list of suspects”.

TechEye Take

The Intel/Micron 3D XPoint announcement was somewhat rushed indicating that all the right things fell in place just in time to enable the two companies to pre-announce prior to the Flash Memory Summit and the Intel Developer Forum.

That the technology happens to fit nicely into the IMDB solution set is not happenstance – this is the result of a long and arduous planning process coupled with what appears to have been a long period of research and development to obtain a ‘Goldilocks” formulaic – just right to enable the 3D XPoint technology.

Intel captures a solid Tier1 order book for their high margin devices and both companies will be providing XPoint memory enabled DIMMs to fill up those 64 Terabyte servers. This is what their competition is really upset over, the loss of technological face in full view of the customer.

Of course there is much, much more but that’s the top of the headlines list – and the line-up of shows begins this week at the Flash Memory Summit.